Fall 2015 found me one more time in London, one of my favorite cities. It was a rather different visit. Instead of exploring the museums, sights and shops I spent several weeks ‘hunting’.
Daughter Rachael was facing down 2 weeks to ‘homelessness’, having been unsuccessful for more than 2 months in finding a new flat to move into with 2 new flat mates, Ana and Lauren. Who would have thought it would be so difficult to find a place to live in central London?
Well I was soon introduced to the challenges of London Flat Hunting!!!
It is incredibly competitive to find a flat in London. Rentals are logged with rental agencies and there are hundreds of them…check out any of the key London neighborhood corners and you will find 4-6 rental agencies within spitting distance. Those looking for a place, log their requirements with agencies—many of them!!! Or you don’t stand a chance!! Each of Rachael, Anna and Lauren were registered with multiple agencies in the 2-3 neighborhoods they were interested in living in. Oh yes, that’s another key element, narrow your search so that you can actually manage the activity…if you don’t you will be run off your feet.
Listing Checking, Agent Pestering, Frustration
Every morning, the flat hunting drill means you 1) troll your search engines (http://www.rightmove.co.uk or http://www.zoopla.co.uk) , 2) hope your agents are also searching for you and sending you emails about new listings—(they often get them before they are logged on the search sites). This later step requires ongoing pestering, as of course in the current environment the agents have many people who are looking for a flat just like you and 3) pick the flats you want to check out. So far so good. The challenge is that you need to move very quickly, almost at the drop of a hat. Getting to the new rental flats first is critical!! I found that for every flat there are another 5-10 people interested in the same space…so it is all about getting your rental offer in quickly!!!
So, as fast as you can, check out the flat, make a decision re what to offer ( at rental price listed, above, below, special requirements etc), get the offer to the agent and wait to see if the owner chooses you for the flat…and yup it is their choice and they typically have multiple offers.
Never Ending Listing Checking and Flat Hunting exhaustion
Sound easy? No, not so much. Frustrating? Yup, and increasingly more so as you make offers and time after time are not chosen!!! arrrggghh
All of the above, is complicated hugely by the fact that you have to make a living…meaning that you typically can only focus on this before breakfast, during work breaks and lunch and after work and on the weekends..in other words you have no life other than flat hunting. And naturally not being able to check out flats until after work, means that you are not typically the first offer!!!
Rachael, Ana and Lauren are all young professionals. Two weeks before they would all be out of their current housing arrangements, Ana was dispatched to Croatia to follow the refugee crisis for Reuters, Lauren was off on a long planned holiday she could not cancel and Rachael had colleagues from South Africa in for the week for a workshop… yup life gets in the way !! They of course were all now not only looking for a new flat to rent, they also needed to pack up their belongings and figure out where they are going to live in 2 weeks time…yup life is complicated and VERY STRESSFUL!!!
Packing up the belongings and storing across London at Friends
So on my arrival, I joined the house hunting task force!! The girls would do the searches early in the morning from wherever they were, send me the possibilities and I would contact the rental agents to see if I could set up a viewing. They armed me with a list of questions to ask, and a checklist of their requirements to confirm in the flats. The best trick was to take a video of each flat I visited, check out the flats and load my visual and verbal observations ASAP on our WhatsApp group, and the girls could check out the flats virtually.
Walking the streets of Clapham & Balham, checking out flats—lovely ones
WE DID NOT GET!! Aaarrrggghhh!!
I became very familiar with Balham, Clapham Junction and Clapham Common…having walked the streets and visited flat after flat. I, along with niece Madi, experienced with them the disappointment of a flat that did not live up to expectations, of trying to decide if they would offer, of losing to another bid, and the nerve-wracking waiting to hear.
So every now and then we needed a break!!!
Cocktail Breaks to keep up our Spirits
It took another 3 weeks to finally secure a flat!!!! But they did it!
It took seeing beyond the distressing lack of housekeeping by the current renters, begging and negotiating with the owner, and constant follow-up with the agent but the girls were successful and late October moved into their flat in a great neighborhood in Balham.
Happy Flatmates Ana, Lauren and Rachael in their new flat !!!
They now live happily in a flat, newly scrubbed, decorated and made ‘home’. Balham is where they settled…a great neighborhood, pubs, cafes, parks and easy transportation.